Wednesday, November 30, 2005


Warren Darden (Heber Springs)

Ernie's "REMEMBERING THE RIALTO" (7/13/04 & 11/27/05) was a great - as is everything he writes - article. He reaches the true emotions in our souls, sometimes with a laugh, sometimes with a tear.

His mention of Smiley Burnett can be verified by the attached photo. I wonder how many others out there have one?

I do have a question: Who's sidekick was he, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, etc.? I don't recall.

Keep up the good work!

Tom Pry (Searcy)

Thanks, Warren, and I’m sure Ernie appreciates the kind words, too.

Smiley Burnette was one of Gene Autry’s sidekicks, as well as doing the same for Roy Rogers; in fact, there are some who would say he invented the “comic sidekick” character as a category (see below), both as “Smiley” and as “Frog Millhouse.” And I picked up the following fact I didn’t know when I went out and Googled him:

Smiley Burnette (musician/composer) - You may have seen him on TV's "Petticoat Junction" or "Green Acres" playing Charlie, the engineer of the Cannonball. But Smiley Burnett got his start writing songs for cowboy star Gene Autry and this led to co-starring roles in many of Autry's movies and Roy Rogers' as well. Burnett is credited with creating the role of the comical sidekick that would make stars of Gabby Hayes, Pat Buttram, Andy Devine, and so many others. One of his most famous songs is the beautiful ballad, "Riding Down the Canyon."

He also had his own series on radio for awhile.

Anita Hart Fuller (Greer's Ferry)

Tom, you do such a good job with the photos..... I think it's a great addition to the website. I, too, know that is Roger "Dude" Duncan, but can't i.d. Bobby Lattimer.

Don't you just love the clothes we wore then? We looked so neat and respectable, and also intelligent. Kids today may be smart as Einstein but they look like idiots .... I was looking thru some of Mother's Harding College yearbooks recently; they were in the mid to late 50's. All the students looked so nice, the guys all had on slacks and nice shirts, leather shoes! The girls inskirts and sweaters, "dickies" and pearls. Hair all nice, becoming styles.

Tom (again)

Thank you, Anita, for the kind words. One of my main reasons for moving our site to Google’s Blogger was the ability to integrate photos into our articles, rather than paying $25 a year for the privilege of hanging links of limited capacity out to one side (Ernie, as you’ll recall, paid the last $25, and both Dan E. and I pay a price for the capacity to place pictures in Searcy Memories, of which we need feedback as to whether-or-not to continue). Glad you like what we’re doing with it: the more photos, the merrier!

And, speaking of photos, looking at the background of that picture of Smiley Burnette with Warren, there’s a story I’ll be happy to tell you off-line about the real Bozo (Larry Harmon) down in Miami one time … but not out where the mafia could see it.

Now, when we were in school, if you came out in public looking like crap, it was because you were working or just plain ole couldn’t afford better. Ernie Simpson, for instance, was poor as the proverbial churchmouse …. but his one vanity was working the summer away so he could afford to buy a couple of pair of honest-to-God genuine Levi jeans (five bucks a pair!) for the next school year.

Looking like a bag lady (with combat boots, yet!!) seems to be a fashion statement for both girls and women these days, so much so that, on those rare occasions when I see a gal (of whatever age) dressed attractively, it comes as a shock, and I’m sorely tempted to just stand there and gawk in appreciation.

Well, the pendulum seems to swing from one generation to the next, striving to hit the extremes at each swing. Maybe I’ll live long enough to see this particular pendulum work its way back to the other end of the clothing spectrum.


It’s wild, the things we know between us. Got a note Tuesday morning from Dan E. Randle asking us to fill in the gap in his memory about the identity of Gene Barnett. I Googled my mail and found that he’d been an addressee of one of Ernie’s missives, so I sent the query to Ernie, who almost instantly replied:

Gene Barnett was a brother to Frankie, the guy Maness tackled on the court square one Halloween night. Gene left Searcy in high school and came to Jonesboro, where he is now retired. Gene was along the class of my brother, Jim, Larry Nokes, Paul Teel, Babe Palmer, and Ernie McCormick. This was about 1963 or '64 maybe.

Next question, please.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


In recent days, we’ve mentioned a few things that, really, deserve pictures so, before this morning’s cold hit (it’s 35 degrees out as I write this), I went out and got the pictures.

A couple of days ago, Ernie mentioned a photo taken of those members of the Class of ’57 who’d entered the Searcy Schools in the first grade and who had spent the next 12 years together. As Ernie so accurately described it, it was taken on the stage lip and floor at the Rialto, along with K.K. “Deac” King.

Why the Rialto and Deac? Why, because the photo was in the Rialto’s ad in the back of the Lion: they paid for the privilege:

Ernie wrote: The twelve listed are Jo Ann Roth, Marlene Evans, Nancy Garrison, Sue Haney, Larry Maness, Nina Aunspaugh, Marvin Allen, Verna Cox, Camelia Chambless, Coy Benton, Ernest Simpson, and Frank Thompson. However, I note seventeen in the photo, and I think I recognize Roger Duncan, and Bobby Latimer. Someone help me with this, memory fades, and the picture isn’t too good anyway. The photo is in the 1957 Lion.

I was interested to see Nina Aunspaugh’s photo in there, because I’d first met her in 1946. She, her dad, Leo, and the rest of her family were living in the house that, in 1953, became “home” for my last three years in high school, after my own parents got moved down here from yankee-land (prior to that, my sis and I were living with my grandparents).


The other thing begging for a picture was my note to Ernie last week about the “combination car” of the old Missouri & North Arkansas Railroad. The car was set up for freight in one half, passengers in the other.

This car is lodged on Oak Street, just north of Beebe-Capps, and right behind the concrete block plant. Oak is the first street east of Main.

Despite the sad look of the place, the young man serving as caretaker says that, except for a little minor water damage, the inside of the car is in pretty good shape.

Negotiations between the owner and the White County Historical Society are ongoing.

NOTE TO ERNIE: At the year’s concluding meeting of the WCHS last night, I was looking through some photos, and came across one of a “self-powered” car that that M&NA used to own. This was a single unit with a lot of glass in it, and the engineer, engine, and passengers were all in the one unit. Does this strike a familiar note? I’d always thought the “Blue Goose” was an engine/combination car paired up, but I wasn’t here then. You, however, have ridden the Blue Goose, so you tell me.

Have a good day, all of you …. And, out of curiosity, do I have any members of the Class of ’56 who read this thing? Just curious.

Monday, November 28, 2005


(Originally run 7/16/04 on our old site)

Becca Van Patten Smith

I really enjoyed reading about this. One of my first bad times was at the show. I don't remember if it was Saturday or Sunday afternoon, but my Dad dropped my brother and me off and drove back home and we would walk home after the show, down Race Street. We each had our dime to get in. I always gave my dime to my brother to pay our way in,,,,,, it turns out that this day the cost of the shows had gone up from a dime to 20 cents, so guess who was left outside, sitting on that very high curb, crying? Mr. King came out to find out what was wrong; when I told him I didn't have any money to get in because we didn't have the extra money he, of course, let me in and called my Daddy to let him know … and Irvin (my brother) got in BIG trouble when we got home. Daddy paid K.K. the 20 cents, too.

It was very good growing up in a small town.

Robert (aka Bobby Scott) Fuller

The Rialto memories have tweaked a few of mine.

When it comes to both the Rialto and the Plaza theaters, I was a lucky lad. John and Ruth Fuller, my uncle and my aunt, were good friends with K.K. and Ernestine King; they were members of a fairly good sized Poker club that met on Saturday nights. A by-product of that friendship was that I became good friends with Jackie, the King's daughter, who was just a bit older than I. On the Saturdays that Uncle John and Aunt Ruth hosted the Poker playing, Jackie came to our house in the morning and we put in a couple of hours of play out in the field or down by the creek. After we cleaned up, we were driven to the Plaza, where we saw whatever was playing there; afterward we walked up Spring St. to the Rialto to see the serial and cowboy movie. I felt so important walking into the theater without a ticket. That went on for several years until both Jackie and I left childhood and moved into adolescence. While Jackie and I no longer played and went to the movies together, I rarely missed those Saturdays at the Rialto.

Some of my favorite cowboys were (Not in order of preference) Tex Ritter, Tim Holt, Wild Bill Elliott (who played Red Ryder in some of his movies), "The Durango Kid" and Johnny Mack Brown; but my favorite was Hopalong Cassidy. Even today, as I do my morning workout with weights, I watch Hoppy on VHS tapes that I've made from our satellite TV.

(One of the funniest things I ever saw in my life was in Tokyo, on television: a Hopalong Cassidy film ... with a Japanese soundtrack! -tlp-)

And yes, as Ernie suggested, The Rialto was the place where Anita and I held hands for the first time.

Another memory of the Rialto is when I went to the first movie ("An American In Paris") after I had polio. "Deacon" King saved a parking spot on the east side of the Rialto, and my folks drove me there. Deacon then paused the movie previews, and I was hoisted in a side door to my seat. Of course that's still one of my favorite movies.

As years have passed, The Plaza - for me anyway - has become increasingly nostalgic. That's where all the "B" movies were. Many were what we might call "film noir." My memory is not too accurate about it, but I think the Plaza was only open on the weekends, maybe just Friday and Saturday. It was such a tiny house, with no lobby at all. I think they sold popcorn in little paper bags, but I can't remember where it was popped or where they sold it. I do remember the explosions when guys would blow up their empty bags and pop them during the movie. And the rumors about rats in the place meant that every kid there kept their feet off the floor.

Thanks, Ernie, for putting The Rialto back on the front burner. I hope others will throw in some memories.

Sunday, November 27, 2005


(Run originally 7/13/04 on our old site)

Ernie Simpson

One of my most favorite places growing up was the old Rialto Theatre…it was a source of social gathering, convention, and central focus for friends for many years. Even as young as ten, I was given a dollar for my birthday, (the matinee on Saturday was a dime) rode my bike to town, and left it at my Uncle Hubert Coward’s house, and walked the rest of the way to the movie.

That dollar went forever those afternoons, and I was even able to come home with change. How that happened, I’ll never know. It was just more than I could spend, it seems.

Relationships were started here, and maybe developed, as we planned to "meet at the Rialto". Friends, strangers, summer romances, all had the Rialto as a commonality. I don’t doubt that, for many kids, the first handholding was at the Rialto. We’ve already talked about the projection system, the upstairs that was segregated in the ‘50’s, Don Boggs (the perfect doorman), and how tough K.K. was as a boss. Bonnie and Clyde’s ’34 Ford, on a flat bed truck in front of the theatre. We gaped at the number of bullet holes in the old car.

I loved my job tearing tickets: the people who came through the doors were all interesting in their way, this was like creating a favorite pastime at a large airport, that of people-watching. I remember friends, strangers, girls from Harding, and a cute girl from McRae who came to a movie every Sunday afternoon. I wanted to meet her, and Johnnie Dacus knew her, but gave me such a brief introduction, I didn’t even catch her name. Darn the luck.

The Saturday matinees, the serial cliffhangers, and our first introduction to the “Roadrunner" cartoons were things first brought to mind, along with air conditioning.

In recent years, my wife Shelia and I loved to come to Searcy and stay at the Lightle House Inn while visiting friends or relatives. Bobby Muerer’s aunt was one of the innkeepers. The innkeepers worked with the reunion committee of the class of ’57, and hosted our reunion there in 1997. Shelia and I loved the place and came several times after that reunion and stayed at that wonderful old house.

I had told Shelia stories about the Rialto and, on a visit to Searcy and the Lightle House, I took her to the Rialto. Friends, it was like stepping back in time. I had not been there in over three decades. A current movie was playing, I think it was the latest Harry Potter, but that was unimportant. What was important was the long-faded ritual of going up to the ancient ticket booth, walking though the glass doors, then two steps up to the lobby level, and my mind thought for a brief moment that the old maroon floral carpet might still be in the lobby. It wasn’t, but no matter. The concession stand hadn’t changed a lot, and, I could still remember Carol Hill making popcorn, probably on the same machine.

The velvet curtains in the theatre are gone, but the lighted wall sconces are still there. The narrow stage in front of the screen hadn’t changed, where I saw Smiley Burnett do a routine back in 1954. The same stage where, with K.K. King, seventeen seniors of 1957 had our pictures made, those who started in the first grade, and ended together at Searcy High, immortalized in photo on the stage of the old Rialto.

Those of us who care for the history, are glad the old theatre is on the National Register. For teens in the 50’s, it could have been a teen shrine, a place of teenage pilgrimage on Saturday night;whatever it might be called, those long ago memories of the old Rialto are priceless.

P.S. the twelve listed are Jo Ann Roth, Marlene Evans, Nancy Garrison, Sue Haney, Larry Maness, Nina Aunspaugh, Marvin Allen, Verna Cox, Camelia Chambless, Coy Benton, Ernest Simpson, and Frank Thompson. However, I note seventeen in the photo, and I think I recognize Roger Duncan, and Bobby Latimer. Someone help me with this, memory fades, and the picture isn’t too good anyway. There must have been more than twelve. The photo is in the 1957 Lion. Our class history lists the twelve.

Dan E. Randle

I remember times when I was without funds and wanted to see a movie that was playing, Ernie would let me go upstairs with him and watch the movie. One movie I remember seeing was 'Love Me Tender' with Elvis. I remember thinking what a poor actor he was in that movie. I also worked at the Rialto in the concession stand for awhile, don't remember which year, but Don Boggs and I didn't see eye to eye, so I left. I also remember an old gentleman, Mr. Snyder, 80 years old but didn't look older than 60, worked as the ticket taker. During the day he did yard work around town. The memory fades out so much I don't remember much else.

The thing that Ernie didn't mention was that Saturdays were always cowboy movies. The cliff hanger serials were designed to keep you coming every week. One was about Bullet Man. I wonder if anyone else remembers him? (I remember Rocket Man. Same thing?) I don't remember others, but do remember that at the end of each chapter, one of the characters was always in imminent danger of being killed. Of course, the following week, they always found a way out and survived until they were put into a similar situation in a later chapter. Anyway, the Saturday matinee was a great place to send your children and know they would be alright for a few hours.

In those days you could send your children to the movies very economically: five for fifty cents, and another thirty cents per child for popcorn, candy, drinks brought the total up to two dollars; now the matinees are 4.75, or $23.75 and, by the time you get popcorn, candy and drinks, you've spent a fifty dollar bill. As noisy as the theaters are now, I don't like going unless it is a very special movie. I usually wait until they come out on DVD and rent them for 99 cents. Almost like going to the movies for ten cents!

Ernie S. Footnote

Hi old friend: just an additional comment: my letting Dan Randle go upstairs and watch "Love Me Tender" was probably one of the firings K.K. gave me....he fired me two or three times, at least.

Saturday, November 26, 2005


(Originally run 6/19 and 6/23/04 on our old site)

Ann Shannon Snodgrass

Class of '54 Glass Menagerie

Yes, Anita. Thank you! That is the production to which I was referring. When I saw it, I was just enthralled by those folks -- actors!

Tom Pry

Us hams – uhh, actors -- appreciate that, Ann. Your regard for us is not always shared. I am minded of the interview in which Alfred Hitchcock was accused of having said that actors are like cattle. He vehemently denied the accusation, pointing out that what he actually said was that actors should be TREATED like cattle.

Now, what was this thing that happened on stage that got your memory all a-twitter?

Oh, and remind me to tell you about our evening of one-act plays in the SHS auditorium: a tragedy in more ways than one.

Anita Hart Fuller

Ann: now that I've id'ed the cast of Glass Menagerie, YOU tell us what the lead actor (Calvin Skaggs) did on stage that was so shocking? Hurry, I'm dying to know. Bob, Don Thompson and I had a good visit with Cal at our class reunion a couple of weeks ago. His production company, Lumiere Productions, NYC, does quite a few things which you may have seen on TV, mostly on PBS. We've followed his career for many years now. His last that I remember on PBS was on The Religious Right. Some of his shows have been available thru the PBS online store, if anyone's interested.

I don't think I can answer the questions posed but, maybe, one? Is it Snowden's Variety Store? Or maybe Mode-o-Day, in a later "day" - no pun intended? Dick Phillips' dad was the manager of some variety store around there. Guess I should have asked him at the reunion.

Ann Shannon Snodgrass

Calvin smoked a cigarette on stage. I couldn't believe a high school student would smoke. (Remember, I was a young 14). The adults were shocked, and much discussion around the dinner table kept that subject alive for quite a while. Now, tell us about the one-act plays.

Tom Pry (again)

Well, if you insist …

The late Virginia Miller was a wonderful woman and a caring teacher but, from a vantage point of years and experience in the craft she taught, I must deem her as lacking in any sense of program balance, dismissing (as do even many practitioners of the art of theatre) comedy as facile and easy.

It’s neither of those things. It IS necessary, if the audience is not to become overloaded with Dismal.

One year (and I must admit, I don’t know which one, perhaps 1955?), Virginia scheduled “An Evening of One Act Plays.” There were three one-acts involved, which can make a nice thespianistic buffet, if the plays are chosen well. Unfortunately, our Evening was two heavy dramas, followed by a self-described “tragedy,” a lumpy little 1911 group murder epic called, “A Night at an Inn,” by the pseudonymous “Lord Dunsany.”

All-boy cast, dangerous in itself at the high school level. Deliberately dimly-lit stage as all of us were killed off, one at a time (we were all bad guys, so we were essentially getting what we deserved) – and an audience that had been wallowing in dramatic excess for over two hours, with nary an opportunity to giggle, let alone guffaw.

And, finally, a creakily-built and overly-complicated set.

Put them all together, they spell not so much tragedy as calamity …..

We were doing okay until a couple of guys were crawling along behind a couch, supposedly hiding from the bad guy/thing/whatever, when they accidentally, and noisily, pulled the window curtains down on top of them. Within two minutes, something else of equal weight went wrong, and the audience was having a giggling good time – by this time, they were totally desperate for some comic relief – and it was about that time that we decided our supposed hair-raising tragedy was irretrievably shot to hell so, without any particular discussion on the subject, we started deliberately playing the whole thing for laughs. The lines were hammier, the deaths more extravagant and noisier and dragged out ….

When we got back to the classroom to get out of costume and makeup, Virginia was there, and it was the only time I could ever class her as “furious.” She lit into us with an impromptu “How could you do this to me?!?” lecture that was enough to scorch your shorts – or would have been, were it not for the parents popping in every few sputtering sentences to tell us that our tragi-comedy was, as one father put it, “One of the funniest things I’ve ever seen in my life!”

At about comedy compliment #6, Virginia went silent, turned, and walked out.

And, to this day, I think none of us have ever mentioned that stinkeroo again.

Next question, please?

Friday, November 25, 2005


(From 6/19/04 and 6/20/04, plus today)

Dan E. Randle

Just received this from Al (English). I had written him an email letting him know that the discipline he meted out as a young teacher helped form and make a better person out of the recipient. He had mentioned how he regretted those things. It would be interesting to hear what Robin M. thinks. Either of you have contact with him? If you do, you might ask him.

Hi Dan..

Happy to hear from you....regret I have not been doing well, but improving slowly...not able to be at computer. Flora keeps me informed about email. I am able to be at comp. today for a few minutes.My mailing address: 77 April Wind South, Montgomery, TX, 78356.

I appreciate your letter. I just hope that anyone I ever offended or mistreated has forgiven me.

I'll try to find a photo of me as you requested, and perhaps a dumb little story I wrote entitled"Movie Star" _ true story, but the names of the 3 characters have been changed, but you will figure out who the 3 really are.

Best wishes, Al

Last I heard, Robin was Principal of a Christian school up in Harrison, but living so far out in the sticks that they have to mail phone calls to him and Ruth. Would be glad to have his e-mail address, if anyone has it. –tlp-

Ann Shannon Snodgrass

Hi, Tom:

I’ve been making a flower girl dress for my youngest granddaughter to wear in a family wedding. The young folks think this is just a marvelous accomplishment. I admit to feeling flattered. But the best feeling has been sitting in my mother’s rocking chair to do the hand sewing and remembering her doing the same with my clothing. Does anyone else still sew?

(Yep, my wife, Karen, which is how she gets nailed doing the bulk of the alterations on 8-year-old granddaughter’s dance costumes. UPDATE: Granddaughter Kayla is 10-1/2 now, and in Ohio, just south of Columbus. We wish she were here needing some sewing done. -tlp-).

Here are some questions I have that might generate discussion, but please don’t count on me for the answers.

1. What was the name of the drive-in at the “Y” where we liked to gather at lunchtime?
2. What card game did we play while eating there?
3. When we drove around the courthouse, what was the usual direction we traveled? (I seem to remember counterclockwise, but I can be just as right on this as wrong).
4. Who owned the variety store on the south side of the court square?
5. How much did hot rolls (with butter) cost at the drugstore (Headlee’s, the “green” one – Walgreen’s, as I recall) on the west side of the square?
6. Who played the female and male leading characters in “The Glass Menagerie?”
7. Who was the male lead and what did he do on-stage that was so shocking?
8. What fascinated us about the decorative column in front of the Rialto?

Hope all is well with you and yours. Ann

And with you and yours, Ann. Age is a screwy item. Ann and I dated for a brief period of time, back when she was 14 ... but I was 16, an almost unspannable gulf.

I’ve seen her once, briefly, since HS graduation in 1956.

I have, consequently, some difficulty picturing her as a gramma sewing in a rocking chair – although I’m sure she does it with the same grace as she applies to everything else.

Anita Hart Fuller

Great job, Ann, on jump-starting our (Tom's) discussions again.

If you are referring to the Class of '54's Glass Menagerie: the leads were Calvin Skaggs and Marilyn Pate, and Larry Lacy and Carolyn Dunn in the second leads. But bet you're not referring to this one!

I'll answer more later, if I can. Must run to yoga class in a minute.

Thursday, November 24, 2005


(Run originally 6/14/04 on our old site)

Anita Hart Fuller

Tom, that was a beautiful tribute and challenge to us all that you posted. And so appropriate following the death of Mil or Milly (Taylor), as I called her.

Now to illustrate what a small world it is we live in, and thanks to JoAnn for letting us know a little about the mini-reunion of Emil and John Ellerbe. Bob and I were soooo sorry we couldn't be there! Anyway, one of Emil's sons is married to Jamie and Jim Christian's daughters. And when our son, Chris, was at the U. of Ark. he would bring the daughters home to Searcy with him, when he'd be visiting my mother. The daughters are twins: one was a majorette in the UofA band (that's how Chris knew her), and the other a cheerleader, I THINK, but that may be wrong.

Jim Robbins and his wife, Bobbie Jean Harrison Robbins, were also invited to go, but couldn't. Jim was manager of the Coca Cola bottling plant in Searcy for years, and Bobbie Jean's stepfather, Oran West, was THE manager for many years before Jim. We bought their home here in Greers Ferry and we have a ceiling fan from the plant here in our sun room. It was installed in the plant in 1936, the year Bob and I - and Mildred - and many others, of course, were born. And Jim(my Dean) Greer told me at the reunion that he has the last Coke bottle that was on the assembly line when it closed down. His Dad worked there and got it; Jim inherited it when his dad died.

Tom Pry

I have some interesting memories of that Coke® plant. It was fascinating to just stand there and watch those bottles rolling through the small plant on Arch Street, just off the Square, through the big plate glass window.

My strongest memory of Coca-Cola, though, was of the bottles, not the plant. Young people today are, for the most part, not aware of this but, for many years, when the glass plant made up an order of bottles for a plant, the city name and state were molded into the bottom of the bottle.

So, as young men will do, we’d all throw a nickel or quarter into a pot, and then each buy a Coke. The guy with the bottle that came from farthest away got the pot. It was remarkable how some of those bottles would travel: Los Angeles, New York, Maine, Boston … a geography lesson with gas.


From 1961

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


(Run originally 6/12/04 on our old site,
and still appropriate as we approach
Thanksgiving Day)

Lisa Beamer on “Good Morning America.” If you remember, she's the wife of Todd Beamer, who said "Let's Roll!" and helped take down the plane that was heading for Washington, D.C.

She said it's the little things that she misses most about Todd, such as hearing the garage door open as he came home, and her children running to meet him. She's now the Mom of a beautiful little girl, Mary.

Lisa recalled this story:

I had a very special teacher in high school many years ago, whose husband died suddenly of a heart attack. About a week after his death, she shared some of her insight with a classroom of students. As the late afternoon sunlight came streaming in through the classroom windows and the class was nearly over, she moved a few things aside on the edge of her desk and sat down there.

With a gentle look of reflection on her face, she paused and said, "Class is over. I would like to share with all of you a thought that is unrelated to class, but which I feel is very important.

"Each of us is put here on earth to learn, share, love, appreciate and give of ourselves. None of us knows when this fantastic experience will end. It can be taken away at any moment. Perhaps this is the Powers way of telling us that we must make the most out of every single day"

Her eyes beginning to water, she went on, "So I would like you all to make me a promise. From now on, on your way to school, or on your way home, find something beautiful to notice. It doesn't have to be something you see, it could be a scent, perhaps of freshly baked bread wafting out of someone's house, or it could be the sound of the breeze slightly rustling the leaves in the trees, or the way the morning light catches one autumn leaf as it falls gently to the ground.

"Please look for these things, and cherish them. For, although it may sound trite to some, these things are the 'stuff' of life. The little things we are put here on earth to enjoy. The things we often take for granted. We must make it important to notice them, for at anytime it can all be taken away."

The class was completely quiet. We all picked up our books and filed out of the room silently. That afternoon, I noticed more things on my way home from school than I had that whole semester.

Every once in a while, I think of that teacher and remember what an impression she made on all of us, and I try to appreciate all of those things that sometimes we all overlook.

Take notice of something special you see on your lunch hour today. Go barefoot, or walk on the beach at sunset. Stop off on the way home tonight to get a double dip ice cream cone. For as we get older, it's not the things we did that we often regret, but the things we didn't do.

Remember, life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.


Tuesday, November 22, 2005


After finally meeting Jim Wilbourn the other day, I then found this piece from 6/11/04 and thought it was worth re-running. –tlp-

Wallace Evans

I am very saddened to forward this email from Mildred Taylor Wilbourn's family that Mildred passed away on Wed. June 9, 2004 at 10:35 p.m.

Mildred was a member of the SHS 1954 Graduating Class and was very active in the reunions and was close friends of several classmates within the Central AR region as well as elsewhere in the country. We will miss a great classmate and community leader.

After her heroic battle with cancer for several years, Mildred Wilbourn passed away on Wednesday, June 9th at 10:35PM.

Tom Pry

We’d been aware for some weeks that Milly was, literally, waging the battle of her life. When we started to make a comment here on the site, though, one of her many friends stopped us, saying that, while Mildred was very active in her community, she was essentially a quite private person, and would be the last gal in the world to want anything resembling pity, so we kept the information to ourselves.

I am assured that she will be very, very missed here on earth – and is probably already planning another reunion for us.

Monday, November 21, 2005


(Run originally 5/30/04 on our old site)


During the Class of 54’s 50th Reunion dinner, Jimmy Dean Greer gave a moving eulogy, remembering those of our class who have passed on. They are: Fayrene Thompson Arellano, James Neldon, Billy Bohannan, Bobby Duncan, Marilyn Pate Stevens, Billy Davis, Sidney Quattlebaum, and William Patterson.

Jimmy Dean particularly remembered James Neldon as a hard working football player with bad legs, who gave it his all in practice and during games. He was an inspiration to other players. James was not eligible to play in the last games because he was over the age limit. How sad.

Sidney Quattlebaum was another good football player who made his mark.

I remember Bobby Duncan as a fragile young man who worked the farm and struggled to keep well.

Marilyn Pate Stevens has been somewhat mysterious, in that we don't know much about her death in Hoboken, New Jersey. She married Shane Stevens, the crime story writer, who Steven King admired for his dark, dark stories.

Fayrene was always eager to work on school projects and to help others with their tasks.

Billy Bohannan was a quiet person who had a flair for dramatics and farming.

My biggest memory of Billy Davis was he could always get Dubble Bubble gum when it was scarce during the war, and would sell it for a quarter, thereby making a 20 cent profit. Billy would always reek of cigarette smoke in study hall.

William Patterson got married and did not graduate with us. I think he was J. D. Patterson's nephew.

Thanks, Jimmy Dean, for remembering. I hope you all have some memories of these classmates to share to keep memories of them alive.

Excerpts from
The Searcy Daily Citizen
Saturday, May 29, 2004


Leah Coleman, a recent graduate of Searcy High School, has been selected to receive a $500 scholarship from the Irvin B. and Kathryn Van Patten Scholarship Fund, a fund of the White County Community Foundation.

Mr. Van Patten, in memory of his late wife, Kathryn, established (the) fund. Kathryn Van Patten had a love for music and education, so Mr. Van Patten decided to use the fund to give annual scholarships to students at Searcy High School who go on to pursue higher education.

Coleman (is) the first winner of this award.

Sunday, November 20, 2005


Homebrew over the years, a footnote or two

(Run originally 5/22/04 on our old site)

Grandpa and Tom Martindale, Part Deux

Ernie Simpson

I tried some of grandpa’s home brew once, and I can tell you it was no culinary delight. However, it could be considered effective for its end result. Grandpa was not even close to being an enologist, but he didn’t care to be one, either. Having thought I might enjoy the hobby, I started in 1985, and I considered some of my results both good and bad. My favorite was a recipe I came up with that created a brew called Barkshack Ginger Mead, a great bubbly wine with hints of ginger and strawberries. My latest effort, more recently, was what I considered a decent sake, made of crushed rice and white raisins.

Now, I also had an Uncle Everett, who lived at Georgetown, at the extreme eastern end of highway 36, and he loved to make moonshine. Everett came to Moye and Young one afternoon while my dad was working there, and bought four 100 pound bags of sugar. Dad thought he knew why Everett wanted it, but couldn’t resist asking the question: “Hey, Everett, what are you going to do with all that sugar?” Everett replied, “I god, I like my tea sweet!” Enough said.

Grandpa and Tom Martindale were young men who loved their homebrew, but would rather buy it than make it. I do understand.

On the way home from fun in town one Saturday evening, they had used all their money and were headed home on foot, broke and inebriated. Tom felt he had a stone in his shoe, and they stopped on the side of the road to let him take his shoe off and rub the sore foot.

Much to their surprise, when he took his shoe off, they discovered there was a five-dollar bill folded in the bottom of the shoe, placed there as a safety measure in case of an emergency. They decided their situation definitely qualified as an emergency, so Tom put his shoe back on; they took the five dollars, and headed back to Searcy.

No word of how long it took them to spend it, or on what.

Tom Pry

The use of, first, butane and, later, its even more potent cousin, propane, created a real headache for the revenooers. Prior to the discovery that these hitherto considered worthless petroleum byproducts made great heating fuels, one of the ways the alcohol control people found stills was watching for smoke from the wood fires essential to the brewing process. Butane/propane was and is smokeless.

It was also, like sugar, legal, and this forced the revenue agents to extraordinary measures in order to discover what the end use was intended to be.

Granddad and Billie lived at the very end of what is now North Valley Road. Since, though, there were no signs saying “Past this point, there be dragons,” once or twice a month, some soul out for a drive would end up in the yard by mistake. Once there, in order to (a) be polite and (b) find out where in hell they were, plus (c) find out how to get where they’d intended to go, instead of just circling the oak tree and going back the way they came, they’d stop, get out, and “visit” a while.

This was considered a normal event around here.

Granddad got tired of chopping wood for the wooden cookstove so, when he got a little flush, he bought a butane (pronounced by those who didn’t know any better, “bu-tan-ee”) kitchen stove … only to discover it was too heavy for the God-only-knows-how-old kitchen floor. This necessitated him putting in a new floor.

He was busy at this when a car drove up in the yard, stopped, and a nice fellow got out and struck up a conversation. No abnormal situation, and they talked about this and that for quite a while before the visitor ‘fessed up that he was a revenooer, and they were having to follow up on the sale of every butane stove and storage tank, for all of the aforementioned reasons.

Finally, he pronounced himself satisfied that it was all legitimate .. which just goes to show you that federal agents are NOT infallible. You see, Billie/grandma, had a stove-top still that fit very nicely on that new stove, thank you. It was copper, and just slightly larger than good-sized stewpot; the whole thing was tidy enough to fit handily in a burlap sack (or “gunny sack,” as it was more often called).

Now, possession of a still was, in-and-of-itself, illegal. For this reason, when a strange car passed what is now Collins Road, rather than turning on to it and heading back towards town, it was my job to grab the tote sack and carry it up on the hill, stashing it someplace where I could find it again, all this “just in case” it was the revenooers coming to call.

Billie did not make moonshine to sell, though that wouldn’t have made any difference in court, had it ever come to that (it never did). Rather, she used it to fix the bead on her homemade wine.

To the uninitiated, when you want to check the alcoholic strength of home brew and wine, you shake the Mason™ jar the booze is in. The resultant bubbles at the top of the brew indicate the horsepower of the liquid: the more bead, the more kick.

Billie made wine for home consumption (which IS legal) but, before the final bottling, she’d check the bead and, if it wasn’t quite up to her horsepower preferences, she’d lace it with some of her own home-made white lightning until it reached what she considered par.

Billie, over the years, made wine out of almost everything: wild muscadines, boysenberries … even dandelions (makes a WICKED brew).

Grandma Billie has been dead for far too many years, but a couple of gallons of her hooch survive, assuming those glass jugs haven’t dissolved. We in the family are firmly convinced that, if you poured this stuff into an old Allis-Chalmers tractor, in the tractor fuel tank, the cotton-pickin’ machine would run. It might hiccup instead of backfire, but it would run.

Thanks for the legacy, Billie. Someday, we’ll get around to drinking it .. in your honor.

Saturday, November 19, 2005


(Run originally 5/20/04 on our old site)

Dan E. Randle

I don’t know if Dan wrote this himself, or just passed it on … but the readers of this site will certainly identify with the sentiments. –tlp-

What a great blast from the past! I haven't thought about fender skirts in years. When I was a kid, I considered it such a funny term. Made me think of a car in a dress.

Thinking about fender skirts started me thinking about other words that quietly disappear from our language with hardly a notice.

Like "curb feelers" and "steering knobs."

Since I'd been thinking of cars, my mind naturally went that direction first.

Any kids will probably have to find some elderly person over 50 to explain some of these terms to you.

Remember "Continental kits?" They were rear bumper extenders and spare tire covers that were supposed to make any car as cool as a Lincoln Continental.

When did we quit calling them "emergency brakes?" At some point "parking brake" became the proper term. But I miss the hint of drama that went with "emergency brake."

I'm sad, too, that almost all the old folks are gone who would call the accelerator the "foot feed."

Here's a phrase I heard all the time in my youth but never anymore - "store-bought." Of course, just about everything is store-bought these days. But once it was bragging material to have a store-bought dress or a store-bought bag of candy.

"Coast to coast" is a phrase that once held all sorts of excitement and now means almost nothing. Now we take the term "worldwide" for granted. This floors me.

On a smaller scale, "wall-to-wall" was once a magical term in our homes. In the '50s, everyone covered their hardwood floors with, wow, wall-to-wall carpeting! Today, everyone replaces their wall-to-wall carpeting with hardwood floors. Go figure.

When's the last time you heard the quaint phrase "in a family way?" It's hard to imagine that the word "pregnant" was once considered a little too graphic, a little too clinical for use in polite company. So we had all that talk about stork visits and "being in a family way" or simply "expecting."

Apparently "brassiere" is a word no longer in usage. I said it the other day and my daughter cracked up. I guess it's just "bra" now. "Unmentionables" probably wouldn't be understood at all.

It's hard to recall that this word was once said in a whisper - "divorce." And no one is called a "divorcee" anymore. Certainly not a "gay divorcee." Come to think of it, "confirmed bachelors" and "career girls" are long gone, too.

Most of these words go back to the '50s, but here's a pure-'60s word I came across the other day - "rat fink." Ooh, what a nasty put-down!

Here's a word I miss - "percolator." That was just a fun word to say. And what was it replaced with? "Coffeemaker." How dull. Mr. Coffee, I blame you for this.

I miss those made-up marketing words that were meant to sound so modern and now sound so retro. Words like "DynaFlow" and "ElectraLuxe." Introducing the 1963 Admiral TV, now with "SpectraVision!"

Food for thought - Was there a telethon that wiped out lumbago? Nobody complains of that anymore. Maybe that's what castor oil cured, because I never hear mothers threatening their kids with castor oil anymore.

Some words aren't gone, but are definitely on the endangered list. The one that grieves me most - "supper." Now everybody says "dinner".

Save a great word. Invite someone to "supper.” Discuss fender skirts.

(And they must've done great things with psoriasis. Growing up, you never heard that ailment as a single word; it was always "the heartbreak of psoriasis." Things must've gotten better in the wonderful world of skin disease. -tlp-)

Friday, November 18, 2005


Tom Pry

It was a bit of a shock to me today to realize that Thanksgiving is just one short week away. As Anita Hart Fuller suggested, it’s time for memories or strange observances and, to make the point, she kicked her husband off the couch and told him to produce.

Bobby Scott Fuller

Anita asked me to send a copy of the attached photo to you. The original was not the greatest, so what I'm sending is the best that Photoshop, combined with my rather limited knowledge of it, could do.

The date of the photo is 1950. I'm not sure what Anita has already told you about our family Thanksgiving Dinners, so just ignore any duplications I include.

Beginning in the foreground and moving clockwise around the table aremy granddad, Scott Fuller (The photo was made in the dining room of his home); me (One can barely make out the stripe on my band uniform pants); my dad, Bill Fuller; my mom, Lillian Faye; my paternal grandmother, Nora Pope Fuller (Her brother was J.D. Pope, who owned a piano store on the East side of the Court Square), my maternal grandmother, Ada Garlington; my aunt, Ruth Fuller; my uncle, John Fuller; and my brother, Bill.

Missing is my sister, Ruth Ann; I'm not sure where she was. The photo was taken by one of the Pope brothers, either Bill, Edgar or Milton.

The custom of gathering at my granddad's place for Thanksgiving had gone on for several years.

Two things seem special about the festivities. One was the "dinner" had to be over in time for most of us to get to the Searcy-Beebe football game, in those days played in the afternoon. Naturally when the game was at Beebe, our meal was very early, usually around 11 a.m.

The other interesting thing -- to me anyway -- was what we ate. Long before my memory had kicked in, the Fuller Family was celebrating Thanksgiving with platter loads of hot tamales, all prepared on a wood stove by my Grandmama Nora. That tradition continues today - admittedly off-and-on, depending upon who can come.

I still carry the tamale recipe, dictated to me by my dad, in my billfold.

Thursday, November 17, 2005


Anita Hart Fuller

Absolutely beautiful pics. I went to Searcy last week (or was it the week before?) anyway, I came home telling Bob how beautiful Searcy was!!!! And the drive from Greers Ferry TO Searcy was absolutely beautiful, too. Thanks for doing that. I've sent the website link to several of my "Nawthern" friends: New Jersey and Canada, Minnesota.

Keep on keeping on. I'm trying to think of something to write that might be of interest. Wonder if we might start something along the lines of ..... my favorite Christmas in Searcy, or something like that. I do have a vivid memory of a Christmas incident some might think interesting/funny. Or what did we eat for our Christmas dinners/Thanksgiving dinners growing up in Searcy? I realize that is a stretch but, hey.....

Tom Pry

Part of my reply to Anita:

“Glad you liked the piece, and thanks for sending the link to your yankee friends.

“All of your ideas sound good: go for it. When you look at some of the things that Ernie and I have written, you'll note that a lot of it is merely reflecting on little, seemingly-insignificant things, rather than being detail-laden histories.

“Might work for you, too.

“And could work for your golden-fingered roommate, too, if he'd get off his butt and do a little writing.”

I can be a nag sometimes; I got onto Draxie Jean Horn Rogers for still having an “Under Construction” sign on her website, which DOES exist. Part of her reply:

Hope all is well with you. I'm swamped with being caregiver for my 91-year old mother and my disabled brother, Johnny. Then the B&B. October was a good month for rentals. The leaves were unbelievable -- especially the last week in October and 1st week in November. You should plan to come up here sometime during those pretty times.

My website, when it gets up and running, will be . The site is still under construction. Do you do websites? My daughter was going to do it -- got all the software, etc. But assisting in heart transplants in babies seems to be her priority -- go figure!! Go in to Ridgeway House, Eureka Springs to see what I'm looking for. I can supply photos and copy. I just need someone to put it all together.

I put her in touch with a business colleague of mine, since I have exactly Zero expertise in what she’s looking for. If web designing were akin to oil painting, I’d be in the Paint By Numbers group, despite what you might think from looking at my own sites.

If YOU have that kind of experience, let me know and I’ll put Drax in touch with you.

NOW ….

Went to a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Professional Escrow Service Tuesday. They’ve gutted their place and completely re-done it. Looked nice.

I mention this only because (follow this chain of logic) Professional Escrow is an offshoot company of the old A. P. Strother office; it’s now named Strother-Wilbourn Land Title Company. The Wilbourn in that is the Chairman, James L. Wilbourn, who is the husband of (here’s the payoff, folks) the late Mildred Taylor Wilbourn, who (we regret to remind you) died 6/9/2004.

Well, that meeting was like old home week. Jim knows more about our graduates than I do. He’s the one who told me that Kenny Rand and Suzie Hoffman Boyett both had birthdays last weekend.

Also on hand was Shirley Baugh, who told me that that her sister-in-law, Patsy Baugh, had been visiting here in town within the past few days.

On hand ‘cause she works there was Teresa Holden, Randall Holden’s daughter-in-law.


When I met the Arkansas Railway Club members Sunday, up in Bald Knob, one of them handed me a card that I might have to make some of for myself. They say:

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


Tom Pry

Saturday, November 5th, was a kind of overcast day; warmish, but overcast. Yet, almost by default, that was the day we chose to do something we haven’t done in a long, long time, which was to just go out and take a drive to look at the scenery, especially the trees, taking on the colors of fall.

Didn’t have to go far to get our first picture. This one was here on North Valley Road, just ¾ of a mile up the street.

Then into town, to Ella Street, the one that runs from Beebe-Capps over to the high school, featuring a myriad of colorful trees.

Look in the other direction on Ella and, Ouila!, another nice picture.

We went up 67 to Bald Knob, then swung over onto 167 heading toward Batesville. About halfway between Pleasant Plains and Batesville is a very nice state-maintained rest stop – clean and very nicely taken care of. Nice view, too. With plenty of parking on the slope, it was possible to track down both panoramas and small shots.
Not wanting to get tangled up in the Saturday shopping tangle in Batesville, before we got there, we swung left on AR25, heading toward Heber Springs. A little creative parking two blocks off the road got us some nice shots of what I think of as the “Batesville Basin.”

The overlook at Greer’s Ferry Dam could probably make money if admission were charged for it. Blessedly, it’s free and may be the best free view in the entire state.

Hope you enjoyed the trip with Karen, Mom and me. In just a week, the leaves have gone: but we’ve got the memories, haven’t we?

Have a nice winter.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


(Some of it from 5/18/04 on our old site)

Ann Shannon Snodgrass

At this point in my life, I make lists of Things to Do and still rarely remember why I went into the next room but, when I play popular music from 1957-1959, I can sing every word and include all the nuances of the original recording. Hmm. I wonder if educators are ignoring a valuable resource by not singing their lectures to their students. Also, thanks for the great ideas about creating photo scrapbooks for grandchildren.

Tom Pry

Ann, you’re quite welcome for the scrapbook idea. Wish I could take credit for it, but that goes to my wife, Karen.

Finally … you’ll note that we haven’t posted many “new” items lately. There’s a simple reason for it: you haven’t been sending any. They don’t have to be full articles, folks, just random memories or thoughts about the past, not necessarily directly involved with SHS. It’s my job, as Editor, to take what you send and make it presentable, but I need the basic material.

You supply the bricks, I’ll build the house.

Bricks, please.

FOOTNOTE: Attended a meeting of the Arkansas Railroad Club Sunday, 11/13. This is a Little Rock organization (simultaneously the LR chapter of the National Railway Historical Society). Met a gentleman named Jim Wakefield, a self-described “Student of Railroad History.”

His particular area of interest is the Missouri & North Arkansas. According to him, the M&NA (sometimes called the “May Not Arrive”) did NOT originate in Springfield, MO. According to Jim (say, that’d make a good title for a TV show, wouldn’t it?), it was SUPPOSED to start in Springfield but, due to one thing or another, it actually started out in Joplin, MO, running over tracks leased from the old Kansas City Southern.

Note to Ernie Simpson: next time you’re in Searcy, look at the junk piles on the north side of Beebe-Capps, just east of Main Street, down at the first light. There is every reason to suppose that the dilapidated combination car (part passenger, part freight) sitting in that field is the one that used to be connected to your old M&NA “Blue Goose.” A guy in Little Rock has offered to pay the cost of transporting it to Pioneer Village if the White County Historical Society will take it on and give it a home.

Monday, November 14, 2005


(Run originally 5/11/04 on our old site)

Anita Hart Fuller

I was waiting on Judy Rice to come by and pick me up - I was spending the night with her that night. While waiting I was in the living room playing the piano, and the front door was open. I remember darkness, rain, and the wind so stong it almost seemed to pull the wallpaper off the wall in front of the piano. Remember wall paper was pasted on over a kind of cheesecloth so there was room behind the paper for the wind to get in somehow. Soon her dad and mother AND Judy came by, I got in and they told me what had happened. Mr. Rice drove toward Judsonia as far as he could, but was turned back by the police. We then went to her house on Market Street, just about a block from Hawkins Clinic Hospital, and stood outside the side door and watched as people were brought in, in cars and the backs of pick-up trucks.

The wife of a doctor on staff there, Dr. Davis, was a nurse but didn't practice. I have a vivid memory of her rushing in the hospital door, resplendent in her white uniform with a navy blue cape. (I'm sure the cape was lined in red satin). I was sooo impressed, I think that might have been when I decided on my future career. Because my mother was dietitian at Harding College, she opened the dining hall and began making sandwiches, coffee, etc. to feed the people and workers at the temporary headquarters in the Armory. I have absolutely no memory of what I did in the days following the tornado.... I THINK we on Arch Street had electricity from the get go, but some in town didn't...or did they? Mother was later named Chairman for Food Preparation on the Disaster Committee for whatever her title.

Mary Kathryn Van Patten James

It was a Friday afternoon and after school during the 8th grade when my Aunt, Lillian Van Patten, drove over to Searcy from Bald Knob and picked up Mira Ann Van Patten and me, so we could spend the weekend with them. We had just got into their rock house and put our suitcases in the guest bedroom when Uncle Clark came home from his hardware store on Main Street.

The sky looked funny, a grey yellowish green and it began to rain. The clouds became darker and Dale Van Patten stopped by on his way home from his store to tell us that a storm was coming! Mira and I were on our knees on the sofa looking out the front window at the wind and rain. I saw the telephone pole in the front begin to bend toward the North in the wind and saw debris flashing by. There was a loud roar and I was aware of my ears popping because of the pressure changing. Aunt Lil yelled for us to get away from the window and come to the hallway!

When the noise and wind and rain died down, we went back to the window and then outside. The house next door was missing its roof. I believe the Killoughs, Tommy, Larry and Peggy Killough, had once lived in that house. Power lines and debris lay everywhere. The telephone pole was at a 45 degree angle. The house we were in was spared. Dale ran two blocks up the street to see about his family. Their house was also spared.

I saw one woman with dark hair walking down the middle of the street in front of the house with a dazed look on her face. She was soaking wet, her clothing was torn in shreds and her white legs showed through the shreds of her skirt in the slight wind. It was then that I realized that people were hurt or killed in this storm. Uncle Clark walked through the neighborhood and came back with news of destruction and people being spared by getting into a closet or bathtub. He went down to his hardware store and got bread and meat and cheese to make sandwiches, and flashlights. Mira and I helped make sandwiches in the kitchen by the light of a kerosene lamp. Aunt Lil cleaned out her refrigerator and we used all that stuff for sandwiches, too.

It was dark when my parents arrived from Searcy. It took them several hours to drive through and around downed trees and power lines. They saw so much destruction along the way they were not sure what they would find at the house in Bald Knob. For some reason, they gave us a choice of staying in Bald Knob or returning to Searcy with them. Mira and I wanted to stay in Bald Knob. I guess we wanted to see what it looked like in the daylight. They let us stay and returned to Searcy without us.

Mira and I finally got into bed in the guest room. We heard sirens all through the night. I think the National Guard was called out to help look through homes. I remember Mother and Dad saying that they encountered National Guard along the highway at certain points. I don't remember exactly what Mira and I did all day Saturday. We did walk around the neighborhood and could not believe the destruction and debris that littered the streets and yards.

Mother and Dad did come back for us on Sunday. It was a long drive back to Searcy. I saw boards sticking into splintered trees and barrenness where familiar landmarks had been. We did not talk much on the way home.

And....yes, March 21st is Larry James's birthday. His mom had made lots of sandwiches, and Larry and Joe Coward, I think, were having their birthday party together at the Legion Hut in Searcy. Needless to say the party was cancelled, but the sandwiches were eaten by the volunteer workers who organized the injured and the dead at the Legion Hut. If you remember Beulah James and Wilma Coward, they were always cooking food and helping others.

Sunday, November 13, 2005


(Run originally 5/9/04 on our old site)

Rebecca Sue Van Patten Smith

I think that is Larry James' Birthday too.

We spent the time during the storm under our dining room table, then mother decided that that wasn't safe enough so we ran up the street (really the back yards) to my Aunt Gert's house; she had a basement and we stayed some there. When it was over, we started trying to get in touch with Mary Kay: she was visiting our Great Aunt & Uncle in Bald Knob. We went after her, and that was the first time I had ever seen people walking around in a daze, with blood on their clothes, looking for family and friends. We lived on Grand Avenue, and Hawkins Hospital was down the street. All night long, ambulances were coming in and going on to Rodgers Hospital. Since that time, I have to see what is happening, can't get in a basement. I was only 6 then, and my brother was 7. Some things just stay in your mind.

Maybe Mary Kay will tell you how she felt during that time.

Jo Ann Roth Cooper

I remember I was at a birthday party for Molly Ann Gilliland. We lived on the same block. The sky got a funny color, and we all went home. Before very long we learned about the tornado in Judsonia.

My father grew up in Judsonia, so he knew a lot of people there and still owned my grandparents' home.

That night, we were without electricity. I stayed at my uncle's house, Dr. Hugh Edwards, and kept his two children, Marica and Robert, Anne Rodgers, and my cousin that lived with us, Linda Allison, while my uncle worked at Rodgers Hospital.

His wife, my Aunt Geneva, and my mother and father, Bill and Alma Roth, went to the armory on Race Street, where they were bringing in the people that didn't need to be taken to the hospital. I believe they set up a morgue there, too.

My grandfather Roth was a carpenter, and had built his house; it was well-built. The tornado did not destroy the house, but took it off foundation and turned it about 25%, then left it sitting on foundation that way.

Wilma Morris Shinley

Strange: this is the tornado I was telling you about that destroyed my grandparent's old farmhouse near Doniphan. I was born in that house. We lived in Memphis at the time, and only my father came home to see about his family. I didn't see the destruction at the time, but there was still a lot of evidence of it when we moved back to Kensett a couple of years later.

Ann Shannon Snodgrass

My memories of that storm are those of a 12-year-old. I stood outside with my grandparents on a well-sheltered porch, and we watched the funnel clouds bumping in to one another with a noise like that of freight trains. I remember being terrified and not understanding what was happening.

My granddad said he thought the clouds were over Kensett, but then they moved to the north (I think) over Judsonia. We could see blackness smear across the horizon. I'm guessing that was debris, filling the air.

My Dad had established and maintained a public address system that put the First Methodist Church's Sunday morning service on the radio. He cannibalized that equipment and somehow set it up in the trunk of a car to run off a car's battery. Traffic and rescue workers were aided through this temporary PA system.

Harold, didn't you work with my Dad on this? Did a minister, Dr. Boucher, help? I'd really appreciate knowing more.

Marian Daniel Ingram

Boy, what memories you brought up with this subject!

As you all probably remember, I grew up in the Daniel Funeral Home, where my father, Elvis Daniel, was a funeral director. My whole life up to high school age was intertwined with the funeral business. It was really second nature to me because of being around it all the time. Our living quarters were the entire upstairs of the old funeral home on Market Street (across from A. P. Strothers). At that time, we had both ambulance and funeral service.

After the Judsonia tornado, all I can think of was the number of bodies being brought in, and so many of them unidentified. I helped by putting tags on them so names could be assigned them as soon as possible. I remember one story of a baby blown into a barbed wire fence and other very graphic reportings. The number of deceased in our funeral home totaled 24, as I remember, and they were all in the chapel.

I guess this was the saddest time I ever encountered during my years of growing up there.

We moved to Searcy from Cabot (after having lived in the Bailey Funeral Home there) when I was entering the 2nd grade, and so I had a lot of different and unusual experiences growing up. I helped Dad conduct a grave side funeral for a baby once by taking care of the flowers.

People sometimes think funeral homes are morbid, but I had such a different take on it because of the employees, Walter Turner and Eddie Dennis, especially, who were always teasing and joking with me and my brother, Robert. I guess they wanted to keep things "light" for our sakes. Walter even took Robert to St. Louis for a ball game once or twice, which was neat.

I feel that I did learn to deal with life better than a lot of people just by having had the experiences we had during those years. My thoughts of Dad are always about the compassion he felt for people and how he worked so hard to comfort people in their loss.

For years after my father's death, my mother, Arline, would usually find a storm shelter to go to when the weather got bad. She would be reminded that "When it's your time, it's your time," and she would respond, "Yes, but you know, the Good Lord gave us enough sense to at least find shelter!"

Saturday, November 12, 2005


(Run originally 5/7/04 on our old site)

At 4:50 p.m. on March 21, 1952, the worst tornado in Arkansas history swooped down out of the skies over White County. When it finally left, it had severely damaged Bald Knob and parts of Searcy, and all but wiped Judsonia totally off the map: 1000 homes in Judsonia were destroyed or damaged.

Worse, 325 persons were injured, 50 killed, with at least 30 of the deaths occurring in Judsonia.

Dan E. Randle

I remember walking home after school and noticing the sky had turned yellow instead of blue. I had never seen anything like this before, so didn’t know what to think about it. It was just … different!

After I arrived at home and went across the street to Porter Rodgers hospital to see mom, it started raining. It seemed that it rained harder each minute that passed. Then the wind came up, and started driving the rain in sheets to the point where you couldn’t see outside the windows. The wind and rain kept increasing until the whole hospital was creaking and groaning. I remember mom and most of her staff were afraid of the storm. I guess I must have been stupid, because I wasn’t afraid. (At that stage of my life I could sleep through a storm like this one, if mom would have allowed me to. Since my room was upstairs, mom would always come up and wake me up to come downstairs where it was safer).

One of the strangest things I had ever seen was one of the window screens being ripped off the hospital and blown away. We never found the screen. The part hardest to believe was the screen had been painted over and over and hadn’t been removed in years, since the paint had glued the screen to the window facing.

Needless to say, everyone was afraid of what would come next. Then the rain and wind slowly dwindled down until it was gone, leaving behind an eerie quiet with the expectation that there was more to come. After a few minutes of no rain, I walked outside. The sky was still a different color than anything I had ever seen before. I was standing outside next to the ambulance entrance when the first car came in. It was an old 1937 Chevrolet, dragging power lines behind it, with a frantic driver behind the wheel. That’s when we first found out what had caused the phenomenon: a tornado had just wiped Kensett, Judsonia and Bald Knob off the map, passing just about 5 miles outside of town. The path it cleared was about a quarter mile wide in places.

After the first car came in with two injured and one dead, other cars started bringing in the injured and dead. People were stacked in the halls and room like cord wood, with just enough room to walk. Since the single nurses lived above the clinic, there were more nurses to help than other hospitals without live-in arrangements. Still, anyone that came in and was able was pressed into service to run errands and/or sit with the injured and dying. My sister, Nancy, had two people die on her while she was sitting with them. I was running supplies from place to place in the hospital as needed.

The only light available was furnished by candles and kerosene lamps and, as you know, they don’t put off very much light. One trip to the emergency room was all it took for me to come up with an idea for better light. I had a Serv-a-cycle at the time so I ran home, removed the headlight, the battery from mom’s car and took them back to the emergency room. The light produced by this combination was so bright it was noticed by someone that had access to an auto supply store. They were able to get many car headlights and batteries that were placed around the hospital to provide good light where needed.

Many of the people came with few clothes on, I remember because mom gave all my clothes away to any youngsters that needed them. I did get to keep the clothes I had on at the time though!

With so many people helping, mom kept the kitchen staff going full speed. We still had gas, so there was hot food and coffee for anyone that wanted it. Walter Redman and Jerry Holmes came over and helped out in the kitchen, washing dishes. We helped all night and through the morning.

That 24 hours will remain burned in my memory all my life.

Kay Young lived in Judsonia at that time and had gone through the ordeal. From that time on, every time the clouds would look like a storm was coming, she would start saying "Take me home right now, I have to go home!” When we got to her house, her family was frantic, they had to get to a storm cellar. They would all jump into their car and speed off to a destination that had a storm cellar. I wonder if she still has the same fear now.

Since then I have been through numerous earthquakes, dust, sand and snow storms, tidal waves, and hurricanes. None of them stick in my mind as that day in 1952 sticks.

Where were you that day, and what do you remember?

Tom Pry

A gentleman with the unlikely name of Toy Cohorn (whose identical twin brother was named Hoy) and his family had just set down to the dinner table in Judsonia when the twister struck. There was so little warning, that all the family had time to do was crawl under the kitchen table. In one of the many peculiar stories to come out of that storm, the roof peeled off the house, and the four exterior walls fell outward, leaving the family untouched, huddled there under the table.

Toy and his family moved in up the road from us and, like Kay, when clouds looked anything like becoming a storm, the family would leap into the pickup truck and drive back to the barn, where the storm cellar was located.

I don’t blame them one little bit.

I was in Chicago at the time of the storm. After five days with no word from my grandfather, my dad, sis and I piled into the car and drove the 600+ miles down to check on him and Billie.

Like Dan, I’m curious as to your memories of that storm.

Friday, November 11, 2005


Dan E. Randle

I was one of those that lived in the time this email talks about. How about YOU!

My parents used to cut chicken, chop eggs and spread mayo on the same cutting board with the same knife and no bleach, but we didn't seem to get food poisoning.

My parents used to defrost hamburger on the counter AND I used to eat it raw sometimes too, our school sandwiches were wrapped in wax paper in a brown paper bag not in icepack coolers, but I can't remember getting e-coli.

Almost all of us would have rather gone swimming in the lake instead of a pristine pool (talk about boring), no beach closures then.

The term cell phone would have conjured up a phone in a jail cell, and a pager was the school PA system.

We all took gym, not PE...and risked permanent injury with a pair of high top Keds (only worn in gym) instead of having cross-training athletic shoes with air cushion soles and built in light reflectors. I can't recall any injuries, but they must have happened, because they tell us how much safer we are now.

Flunking gym was not an option...even for stupid kids! I guess PE must be much harder than gym.

Every year, someone taught the whole school a lesson and provided comic relief by running in the halls with leather soles on linoleum tile and hitting the wet spot. We would have been so much better off if we only knew we could have sued the school system.

Speaking of school, we all said prayers and sang the national anthem, and staying in detention after school caught all sorts of negative attention. We must have had horribly damaged psyches.

I can't understand it. Schools didn't offer 14 year olds condoms (we wouldn't have known how to put them on, anyway),but they did give us a couple of baby aspirin and cough syrup if we started getting the sniffles. What an archaic health system we had then. Remember school nurses? Ours wore a hat and everything.

I thought that I was supposed to accomplish something before I was allowed to be proud of myself.

I just can't recall how bored we were without computers, Play Station, Nintendo, X-box or 270 digital TV cable stations.

I must be repressing that memory as I try to rationalize through the denial of the dangers could have befallen us as we trekked off each day about a mile down the road to some guy's vacant lot, built forts out of branches and pieces of plywood, made trails, and fought over who got to be the Lone Ranger.

What was that property owner thinking, letting us play on that lot? He should have been locked up for not putting up a fence around the property, complete with a self-closing gate and an infrared intruder alarm.

Oh yeah... and where was the Benadryl and sterilization kit when I got that bee sting? I could have been killed!

We played king of the hill on piles of gravel left on vacant construction sites and when we got hurt, Mom pulled out the 48 cent bottle of Mercurochrome (kids liked it better because it didn't sting like iodine did) and then we got our butt spanked.

Now it's a trip to the emergency room, followed by a 10-day dose of a $49 bottle of antibiotics and then Mom calls the attorney to sue the contractor for leaving a horribly vicious pile of gravel where it was such a threat.

We didn't act up at the neighbor's house either because if we did, we got our butt spanked (physical abuse), and then we got our butt spanked again when we got home.

Mom invited the door to door salesman inside for coffee, kids choked down the dust from the gravel driveway while playing with Tonka trucks (Remember why Tonka trucks were made tough? It wasn't so that they could take the rough Berber in the family room), and Dad drove a car with leaded gas.

Our music had to be left inside when we went out to play and I am sure that I nearly exhausted my imagination a couple of times when we went on two week vacations. I should probably sue the folks now for the danger they put us in when we all slept in campgrounds in the family tent. Child abuse, no less!

Summers were spent behind the push lawn mower and I didn't even know that mowers came with motors until I was 13 and we got one without an automatic blade-stopper and auto-drive. How sick were my parents?

Of course my parents weren't the only psychos. I recall Donny Reynolds from next door coming over and doing his tricks on the front stoop just before he fell off. Little did his Mom know that she could have owned our house. Instead she picked him up and swatted him for being such a goof. It was a neighborhood run amuck.

To top it off, not a single person I knew had ever been told that they were from a dysfunctional family. How could we possibly have known that we needed to get into group therapy and anger management classes?

We were obviously so duped by so many societal ills that we didn't even notice that the entire country wasn't taking Prozac! How did we ever survive?



Thursday, November 10, 2005


(Originally run 5/6/04 on our old site)

Anita Hart Fuller

I wish I could conjure up a memory of graduation day, May 2lst, 1954, Ernie. All I can remember is that Judy Rice and I had "hired on" at the Birdseye Processing Plant and had to report to work that night, right after graduation. Therefore, we didn't get to attend the party or ANYTHING -- just wore those hairnets or whatever on our heads and processed spinach or greens till the wee hours. I guess when work was over, we just went on home to bed.

I've just asked Bob what he did - he just remembers going over to Calvin Skaggs’ house for a little party. Calvin was our Valedictorian and Mildred Taylor Wilbourn our Salutatorian .. I THINK, but it may be the other way around. I don't think there were any wild celebrations, etc., just naive little kids graduating in the middle 50's and thinking we had the world by the tail. Little did we know! Thanks for the memories, Ernie.

Al English

Hi Dan. Finally, I'm able to be at the comp. to send a note. I had two "close calls" ... 1 on Nov. 19 '03 - trouble w/ventilator .. wasn't getting oxygen ... EMS, Hospital.

The other close call - Feb. 19 '04 - "mild heart attack" ... again EMS, Hospital. Thanks to the prompt help of EMS, doctors, nurses, they again saved my life. I have been confined to bed since Nov. 19. '03. I'm recuperating very slowly. This is the 2nd time to attempt to email anyone.Since my time is very limited to be at the comp ... I don't have time to participate in the Searcy Yesteryear program. I hope everyone understands. I enjoy PERSONAL NOTES, however, & appreciate any news.Kindest regards to you & the Searcy Crew.

Understand perfectly, Al … and glad you’re still in our world. You mean/meant an awful lot to a lot of us. We’ll be happy to pass on any messages we get aimed at you. –tlp-

Don Thompson (1)

Ernie, I find your stories interesting and well written. They bring back memories of my early years of college and starting my first job. I think you and Larry got a pretty good salary for a teaching job in a small town. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of your story.

After my brother-in-law, Ward Seitz, retired, he decided he wanted to write a book about his 7 near brushes with death, and he spent 3 years writing his story. His daughter-in-law's mother was an editor and he passed the manuscripts through her and she helped him smooth out the ramblings. He finally finished the book and was trying to get it published without any success. He could self publish it for about $5000, because of minimum quantities.

The morning of April 24, 2003, Ward, age 73, died in his sleep of an apparent cerebral hemorrhage. His wife had his story published in his honor.

Keep up the good work.

Ernie Simpson (1)

Hi Don: first of all, thank you very much for your feedback on this story (Larry & Ernie, parts 1-6). It is highly personal, but a lot of it was shared with many who were band kids, went to Searcy High, and it gave me a chance to relive some of those things we all remember, and to pay tribute to a very unique man. And truly he was that.

I think your late brother-in-law's book published by his wife will be a priceless treasure in years to come. Several years ago, I ran across an ad from Pathway Publishing House, Lubbock, TX that promoted a 'fill in the blank' memory book to be filled out and left for your kids or grandkids. I sent for one, and it was interesting the questions it asked. It prompted me to wonder how my grandkids would ever know about stuff in my life they might enjoy knowing about, thirty years from now. For me, those same questions exist, but now there's very few of those folks left to ask.

Tom started the web site, and I told him that, at the risk of sending mundane drivel, I would try to contribute a little. He was very encouraging and, as you can tell, he is quite bright in his editing and making the site interesting.

I hope my grandkids will at least have an idea about Grandpa from a different perspective. I want them to know about me, good, bad, warts and all.

I appreciate your encouragement, truly.

Don Thompson (2)

Ernie, one thing I did for my 4 grand kids was to prepare a little book for each of them. My son and daughter and their families visited us in 2001. As a momento of the visit, I decided to put together little books of stories and pictures. I saw no need to do Arkansas visit scenes foreach kid, so I did one book of pictures and stories that featured the recipient, but included the sibling.

The first book was about the Pecan Boll Weevil. I had found a Hickory Nut with weevil holes, and I did a little pic sequence of the grubs exiting the nut, then boring into soil in a little observation plastic box. That book went to my grandson, who had a tough time during the visit because he had broken his leg 2 weeks before in a bike accident.

His sister got the Arkansas visit book, which featured lots of quartz crystal digging scenes.My oldest grand kid got an Arkansas visit book and she was thrilled. It included pics and stories of her catching fish and chasing lightning bugs. Her sister got a book about horses. I found all these horse pics on the Internet and made quite an extensive book of horse scenes. She is very fond of horses.

I'm hoping these books will be a good memory of their granddad in later years. I'm not sure what my kids will do with the Searcyyesteryear Journal stories I wrote, but they have commented on them, and were pleased that I wrote them.

I have also prepared a genealogy record for my kids, complete with pictures.

Ernie Simpson (2)

Don: This is such a great idea! Yep, these books will be a precious treasure in years to come. You make me want to start compiling a similar thing ... it's that neat an idea.

I love those old pictures, too ... wonder what the grandkids will think of OUR own pictures in years to come.

I hope you will keep contributing to the web site...

Tom Pry

We only have one grandkid geographically close to us and, as an idea, my wife, Karen, started her own little tradition. We shoot events in Kayla’s young life (she’s 8, almost 9), dance recitals, school shows, birthdays, etc., and then Karen makes a couple-or-three digital collages, prints them on photo-grade glossy paper, and puts them into plastic page protectors. They’re given to Kayla, who has a large notebook in which she carefully inserts them. The collages always have shots of Kayla and grandma together at the event, of course, and include date and place. Hopefully, she’ll continue that record into adulthood, which’ll create a treasure trove for HER children, I’m sure. (UPDATE: Kayla is now ten, and one of her Christmas presents is a scrapbooking kit. She also now lives in Central Ohio).

Just an idea.

The columns I’ve done here and on my “personal” site, plus a llllooonnnngggggg series of “memories” items (much of which has been seen here first) I’m writing for Wagon Wheel Publishing (Searcy Sun, White County Record, Bald Knob Banner, and the White River Delta Dispatch) in Bald Knob will be, methinks, the only written legacy I’ll leave behind.

Never did write a book I could put my name on.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The Life and Times of Larry and Ernest - 5


(Run originally 5/4/04 on our old site)

Ernie Simpson


Our Cars

When Diane and I married in 1962, we had the 1960 Volkswagen, 36 horsepower, air-cooled, no radiator, no air conditioning, but we loved it. It made many trips to Searcy and Pine Bluff. I drove it the only speed the car knew, wide open. It would do 72 mph with a good tailwind. Larry and Sue had a DKW, a three cylinder German car, built by Auto Union of Germany. He soon traded that for a Pontiac Tempest.

A week before we were to get married, I burned the engine up in the VW because of a faulty thermostat in the air-cooled engine. We borrowed a ’55 Ford to take on our honeymoon to Hot Springs from the mechanic who was replacing the engine.

Although we liked the car, it was constantly giving us problems. I blew the engine on it again soon after she and I were married, and found that Sears had a rebuilt engine in their catalog. I had an account with Sears and thought I would order one from the catalog. Well, it took too long to get the engine to the Blytheville store, so Larry and I decided to go to the nearest distribution center and get one.

The nearest one was in Atlanta. So he and I loaded up in Larry’s car one Friday afternoon and headed out. We drove all night, and got to Atlanta by early morning on that Saturday.

We went to the main catalog office, and when they checked my account, they said I had not had an account with Sears long enough to put that much credit on my bill. We were both angry, but there was nothing we could do except go back home. We got to Cooter on Sunday afternoon. I have never liked Sears since.

My value in that experience was the friend I had who knew I didn’t have a car, took his good car and said let’s go. He asked no questions, he just knew my car was broken, and he was going to help me get it fixed. How did I solve the problem? I bought Uncle Carthel’s 1950 Ford for $125. It worked out fine, and was very reliable.

Larry and I loved sports cars, more particularly the British. The Thunderbird/Corvette saga was long gone, and we were studying the more traditional sports vehicles. We would not dare think of anything domestic. I was lucky enough to spot a 1960 MGA roadster at a car lot in Blytheville, drove it back to Cooter and showed Diane. She encouraged me to buy it for the $850 they were asking, so I did.

I then drove it over to show Larry. He loved it and it was not too long until he came up with a black Austin Healey Sprite, 1959, the Bug-Eye. Very light weight, with a good power to weight ratio, and was great fun to drive. We often raced the back roads between Cooter and Steele, the MG having greater power on the straights, but the Sprite would get the MG in the corners.

Both cars were unreliable, but were the purest form of a true sports car. When it rained, you got wet, when it was cold, you were cold, and when it was hot you were hot. Neither the MG nor the Sprite had roll up windows, instead had side curtains to keep out some of the weather. We spent hours talking about sports cars, music, and how to teach our kids in the band to play.


The Winter of ‘63

My son Scott was born May 28, 1963, and when the Christmas Holidays approached, we got ready to make the journey from Cooter to visit all the grandparents. We were planning to go to Pine Bluff then back up to Searcy. On the afternoon of the 22nd of December, it started snowing, and before it was over, there was an average of ten inches covering the ground in central Arkansas.

Diane and I had our Pontiac Tempest, bought new in the summer at Hayti, so we made preparation to head out. Larry and Sue also had a Tempest, a station wagon. It was still snowing when we left in the afternoon. We talked to Larry and Sue, they planned to leave around the same time and go down highway 55 and across I-40 to Little Rock where his parents were.

We made a change of plans and went first to Searcy, figuring if things were really bad, we’d at least be halfway in Searcy. The snow was deep and I had a concern about crossing the White River in Newport. Big trucks were having a hard time but, luckily, we had no problem. This was the main road, highway 67, so everyone had to use that route. The travel was slow, and it took the entire afternoon to get to Searcy, and we arrived just about dinnertime.

We spent the night in Searcy, with mom and dad, and headed to Pine Bluff the next morning, on Christmas Eve. We took the back roads down through England and Lonoke, and the snow had not been packed down on the roads that early morning. There was only one lane for travel, and I stopped along the way and made a picture of Diane and Scott.

The weekend other than that was a good time, a beautiful Christmas and since it was Scott’s first Christmas, the snow made it special. Looking back, this decision was probably not the smartest I have made. At the same time, Larry and Sue were stranded in Marion, north of West Memphis.

The State Police had closed I-55, and Larry ruined the engine of his station wagon by letting the car run all night to keep them warm at a truck stop. The timing chain in the Tempest wouldn’t hold up to an all night idle. I didn’t learn of this until we got back to Cooter days later. That record snow has not been duplicated in Arkansas since that date, on Christmas Eve.


Leaving Cooter

Don Minx made a surprising comment to me after I had been in Cooter about three years. Larry’s and my programs were developing and the kids were doing a great job. He came to me at a visit to our schools and conducted a rehearsal with the Cooter Band. We had just returned from a Southeast Missouri Teacher’s Association meeting, and the Cooter Band had been invited to play for the opening session. It was an honor, and the band had performed well.

In a conversation after the rehearsal and at dinner that evening, he said bluntly, “Ernie, you’ve got to get out of Cooter.” I said why, things are going well, and the band is playing fine. He told me that I’d taken them as far as they can go, and I would only hold myself back by staying. I was shocked to hear this, as I did not think of hitting a place that could not be made better; besides, that wasn’t the point, was it? I thought these kids were much like my own family, and it was difficult to think of leaving them.

Mr. Minx said that’s right, it is like a family, and that’s the problem. “They’re not your family,”

After talking to Diane, I took the question straight to Larry, and he and I talked about it a great deal. Here was the chance to move up professionally, and greater opportunities in the field in northern Arkansas. His opinion was invaluable, and I sought it in this big decision. There were several band jobs open in and around Jonesboro, so I started looking at them all.

Pat Richardson encouraged me to move to Manila, since he was probably the first band director there, in the 1950s. He really wanted me to move to Manila, he believed it had the greatest chance for success as a program. He had success while there, but the lure of private business in the music store and the uniforms for band business was more what Pat wanted. He and I drove down one Saturday from Cooter, and we jimmied the window of the band room and got in. I looked over the band room, and immediately liked it.

We talked it over, again and, after then-director Mike Chillcutt left, I sought an interview and was offered the job. The band was weak, but had potential.

Larry presented me with a going away present, a gold plated Bach 7-C trumpet mouthpiece. I still have it as a treasured possession, and did not use it for years. I was proud to show it off, as a gift from my friend.


The Masters

We kept in constant contact by telephone during my time right after leaving Cooter, I visited Steele, and he came to Manila. We worked hard to keep in touch with our friendship.

In 1966, we had a surprise: Arkansas State was offering a Master’s degree with emphasis on music education. This was exciting, since we had talked about commuting to Memphis State to get our degree there. This was not a great option; we had no desire to attend Memphis State.

We made application to the college of fine arts in the summer of 1966, and were accepted. The summer classes started at 7:30 a.m. and driving from Manila every day made it difficult. We managed, and Diane and Sue were supportive and encouraging. It took one full year of Tuesday and Thursday evenings, and two full summers, each summer term five weeks long, to obtain the necessary hours. It took 30 credit hours, as I recall.

On the day of graduation in 1967, we took our comprehensive finals, and were really discouraged when we came out of the test. The finals took four hours, and were a compilation of all material we had covered in the degree with each professor.

Of course, a basic requirement of the degree was a B average or a 3.00 out of a 4.00 grade point. We had managed the entire time with a great deal of work to keep our classes at the proper grade level.

As we finished the day, and went back home, the graduation ceremony was planned for that night. I called Larry and expressed concern about how we had handled the final, and was not sure the grade we would get in the final would be sufficient to keep our 3.00 average requirement for graduation. The grades had not been posted before we left for home that afternoon, and we were completely in the dark as to our results.

He was worried too, and I told him that the one man who could tell us would be the music department chairman, Don Minx. After all, I said, I was not going to drive over to Jonesboro for the ceremony, and be pulled out of the line. It would be totally embarrassing to be pulled out of the ceremony, by some dean who would tell us, “Sorry, but you flunked the final, you won’t be graduating.”

I called Mr. Minx, and told him our dilemma; “Mr. Minx, if Larry and I didn’t pass the final, we are not going to come over for the ceremony.“ On the other end of the phone, Mr. Minx started laughing uproariously. I asked him why he was laughing, and he said, “Don’t worry, you both passed.”

It was total relief for me to be able to call Larry and tell him. We both agreed that Mr. Minx must have had a hand in the final say as to our grades, because surely I could not have passed that final with the answers I put to the questions. Larry and I went to Jonesboro with our families, Diane and Sue, and got our MSE degrees that night

There were four in the Master’s program in music, and the very first class to graduate from Arkansas State with a Masters in music that hot summer in 1967: Alan Mickel, Jack Ballard, Larry Maness and me.

We both were eternally grateful to Don Minx for his efforts to encourage us, and to our wives for their support in keeping us going. It was an ambition fulfilled … thanks to lots of people dear to us.


Leaving Steele

How the contact was made, I’m not sure. He called me after we got our degree, and talked about going forward. Camdenton, Missouri, by Lake of the Ozarks. A great little town, with the people he wanted to be around. Steven and Marc were still little and the time was right. Sue was encouraging, so they made their decision, and left a grieving little town. The best band program that little town had seen, and the one who had brought it to life was leaving.

I loved Larry’s sense of humor, and how dry and funny he could be. His band library at Camdenton was a good one, and we shared literature for our bands. I was looking for a particular piece to play at contest, and didn’t want to spend the money without checking out the piece ahead of time. I called Larry and asked him for a Sousa march, called The Free Lance. It soon came in the mail, I passed it out to the kids, liked how it sounded, and we started to work on it.

I soon got a note in the mail, and it gave me the news of how things were going with the family, school, and a the bottom,” Did you get that Free Lance piece?” I laid the note aside, and in a few days had forgotten about it. A few more days later, I got another note in the mail, and it had only nine words. “I said, did you get that Free Lance piece?” I laughed, and picked up the phone. We had a good chuckle.


Leaving Manila

1968 was a year burned in my memory for many reasons, the birth of a wonderful son, the loss of my young wife, and heartbreak and change in order to survive mentally were present with me for years to come.

Larry and I had kept in contact after 1967, and our progress in our profession was working as the pattern should, we supposed. They were settled in Camdenton, his program was going well, and Diane and I were both teaching in Manila. She had the choral program and one class in English.

I had started becoming acquainted with teachers and directors in northeast Arkansas, and was working to become more involved with the workings of the band associations, both regionally and state wide.

Stuart Leslie was born in July of 1968, and I gave him the name I thought was strong, and was honored to give him Larry’s middle name. In August, Stuart Leslie was about a month old, when Diane had become ill. Al Poston of Jonesboro and a couple other directors and I drove to Mississippi State on Saturday August 3rd to hear a clinic by a famous band drill instructor, Bill Moffit. We were looking forward to it, and headed out early that morning in order to get to the clinic that hot August day in plenty of time.

Diane and I had a new Mustang, and she decided to take the boys to Pine Bluff that weekend while we were at the clinic in Mississippi. Scott was about five, and Stuart was about four weeks old. She was sure she would make it fine, the car was new, it was not a bad drive, and she would have been there in about two to three hours. She left that Saturday morning with the boys, but when she got to West Memphis, the air conditioning in the Mustang quit. It was hot, and she made efforts to get it fixed at the Ford place there, but they didn’t have the parts, so she continued.

When she got to Pine Bluff, she was in bad shape. She went in directly to her parents, Ivon and Norman, and told them she had a splitting headache. She could barely speak because of the pain. They put her to bed, and took the boys, and took care of them.

Norman went in later that evening to see about her, and she would not awaken. He took back the covers and tried again to wake her, when he realized she was comatose. They called an ambulance and they rushed her immediately to St. Vincent’s in Little Rock. I got a call early that Sunday morning, from Norman. “Ernie, Diane is bad sick, you need to come right away.” I hung up the phone, threw a change of clothes in a bag and went out to start the MG. It started fine, and I headed out. The top was down from my last time to drive it, and I didn’t want to take time to put it up. I drove fast, and was doing fine till I got to just north of Stuttgart. The engine quit, and I couldn’t figure what was wrong.

I pulled off to the side of the road, and got under the car, and discovered the electric fuel pump had lost one of the contacts. I rewired it, and the car got fuel and I started again. By the time I got to Pine Bluff, I was sunburned and worn out. I checked with Norman, and he said Ivon was in Little Rock. I got the Mustang and headed out. Norman was keeping the boys.

Diane was in a Critical Care Unit, called intensive care then, and was in a coma. The boys were at Tommy and Virginia’s, Ivon’s sister, and were well. I called Larry and told him what was going on. He was about to start school and was getting ready, but loaded up his family and came to Little Rock. His parents lived in west Little Rock, not far from the hospital.

He kept vigil with me. There were many from Manila who came, Pine Bluff, and Little Rock. I stayed at the hospital at night, and drove to Pine Bluff and slept a little in the day and headed back. My brother Jim came down from Searcy to be with me too. Dad was not well enough to travel, and besides there was nothing that they could have done.

Doc Shaneyfelt came down from Manila, and conferred with the attending physician. They agreed she had a cerebral hemorrhage, and would be incapacitated for a log time, but would recover.

I went in to her each time they let me, and stayed by her bed. I was not sure she knew if I was there or not, but she would squeeze my hand when I held it and spoke to her, so I felt sure she was aware. Ivon had little patience for sitting and waiting on progress, and commented once as she was pacing the floor, ‘This waiting around will just kill you.’ Another lady in the waiting room was offended at this, and said, ‘No, it will sure not!’ Ivon said no more.

On Sunday morning the 11th, I had gone over to Larry’s parents, and they offered me a shower. I showered and came out. Ivon was at the hospital. When I came out of the shower, Larry told me the hospital had just called, and Diane had just passed away. It seems Ivon was trying to feed her just a bite, and she coughed and had a massive stroke and passed away in just a moment or two.

When I got to the hospital, Ivon just looked at me, with a hurt and defeated look, and turned and walked away without speaking. Jim was there, and drove me to Pine Bluff. I left and went back to Searcy, then on to Manila, and got some clothes and came back to Pine Bluff to make the arrangements.

Larry, Pat Richardson, Al Poston were some of the pallbearers. Mr. Minx was at a conference in Las Vegas, and was heartbroken when he called and I told him the news. Others I can’t remember. But Larry was there, and helped me through. I always was deeply grateful for his support in that bad, bad time. Many even came down from Cooter to the funeral; the floral tribute at the gravesite was the largest I have ever seen for anyone.

Several months later, back in Manila, it must have been late in 1968 or early 1969, the phone rang in the middle of the night. It was really late, about 2:30 a.m. I awakened and reached for the phone, it was Larry.

He said, “Man, are you all right?” I said, yes, I am fine, what’s wrong? He said, “I had a bad dream that you needed me and something was wrong. I wanted to call to make sure you were all right. Are you sure you’re all right?” I promised I was O.K., the boys were fine, and I really was glad he called. He was fine once he realized everything was all right. He said call me if you need me. We said goodbye and hung up. I thought about that for a long time, and have never forgotten it.

That’s just how he was. He was my friend, and he cared about my welfare.

To be continued